Monday, November 12, 2012

A Point of View

For years I have been looking for a copy of Mahmud's Diary, the diary of Mahmud-i-Zarqani as he journeyed with 'Abdu'l-Baha across North America. Finally, this past weekend, I got a copy.

Wow. What a read.

His evident love of the Master, and his ability to capture the essence of what he saw around him, is quite astonishing, especially given the many other demands upon his time.

Through it all (and I'm only on page 54), though, one thing has really caught my attention, and that is the difference in perception between what he saw, and what the Western believers saw. Neither view is better than the other, but they are so different, and they seem to reflect something about how people of differing backgrounds can see the same thing with such different eyes.

While I could go into all sorts of detail about that, one singular passage caught my attention.

The date was Sunday 21 April, and the Master was giving a talk in Washington DC. Mahmud decided, for some reason, to reproduce the entirety of that talk, as he heard from the Master's own lips in Persian. At the same time, Joseph Hannen took notes and recorded what he heard from the translator in English.

This is what Mr Hannen faithfully recorded, and which Howard MacNutt included in The Promulgation of Universal Peace:

The Prophets come into the world to guide and educate humanity so that the animal nature of man may disappear and the divinity of his powers become awakened. The divine aspect or spiritual nature consists of the breaths of the Holy Spirit. The second birth of which Jesus has spoken refers to the appearance of this heavenly nature in man. It is expressed in the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and he who is baptized by the Holy Spirit is a veritable manifestation of divine mercy to mankind. Then he becomes just and kind to all humanity; he entertains prejudice and ill will toward none; he shuns no nation or people.
The foundations of the divine religions are one. If we investigate these foundations, we discover much ground for agreement, but if we consider the imitations of forms and ancestral beliefs, we find points of disagreement and division; for these imitations differ, while the sources and foundations are one and the same. That is to say, the fundamentals are conducive to unity, but imitations are the cause of disunion and dismemberment. Whosoever is lacking in love for humanity or manifests hatred and bigotry toward any part of it violates the foundation and source of his own belief and is holding to forms and imitations. Jesus Christ declares that the sun rises upon the evil and the good, and the rain descends upon the just and the unjust -- upon all humanity alike. Christ was a divine mercy which shone upon all mankind, the medium for the descent of the bounty of God, and the bounty of God is transcendent, unrestricted, universal.
This is what Mahmud recorded, from the original Persian:

The teachings of the Prophets were solely directed to educate humanity in order to subdue the animal side so that persons under the yoke of nature may find salvation and the heavenly aspect may rule victorious. This divine aspect is the bounty of the Holy Spirit, it is the second birth. He who possesses the divine aspect is a well-wisher of mankind and is most kind to all. He will entertain no enmity toward any Faith and will not belittle any religion, for the foundations of the religions of God are one. If we refer back to these foundations, we shall become united. But if we turn toward imitations, we shall be at variance, for imitations differ but the foundations of the divine religions are one and the same. Imitation leads to differences and trouble but the foundations of the divine religions cause love and union.

While I truly love the first, there is a power within the second that touches my heart even more.

What had caught my attention, and why I searched out the other version, was, quite simply, the idea that "He who possesses the divine aspect... will entertain no enmity toward any Faith and will not belittle any religion..." While the concept is prevalent throughout the Writings, I was fairly certain that I had never seen that clear a phrasing of it before.

Now I know why I had been searching so long for this wonderful book.

Thank you, Mahmud, for taking the time, and exerting the effort, to write this book.

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